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The Thread Count Automation Project (TCAP), launched by Cornell electrical engineering professor C. Richard Johnson in 2007, discovered striped patterns in color-coded images of local thread densities obtained from digital image processing of x-radiographs of Old Master paintings on canvas. These striped patterns provide a "fingerprint" for pieces of canvas cut from the same roll. This spurred a four-year effort assisted by Walter Liedtke, one of the world's leading scholars of Dutch and Flemish paintings, to gather x-radiographs of all thirty-four paintings on canvas by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). Thus far, six matching pairs of roll-mates have been identified. They provide evidence regarding authentication, dating, and—potentially—artistic intent. In addition to weave density maps, images were created of thread angle from their nominal horizontal and vertical directions. These angle maps provide forensic information regarding warp/weft thread designation and cusping, which offers insight into Vermeer's studio practice and the possible re-sizing of his paintings since their creation. The insights generated by computed weave maps arising from the application of digital image processing are pioneering contributions from engineering to the emerging field of computational art history.
Part of The Frick Collection's lecture series, Digital Art History Lab Lectures. After the presentation The Frick Collection's Associate Research Curator Margaret Iacono held a conversation with Dr. Johnson about his discoveries regarding some of Vermeer's masterpieces, including The Collection's iconic Mistress and Maid.